Drupal Gardens

Review Summary

Light on Features, Heavy on Quality & Potential
Free (Tiered starting in 2011)
Cost Info: 
Free is ad supported and bandwidth limited
Well supported, High potential for growth/expandability
Currently very light on features, Forums need some work
Editor Rating: 

Drupal Gardens is a product of Acquia, a business that makes money promoting Drupal through it's vast array of services while making large contributions to the code base. Drupal is an open-source Content Management System (CMS) that is well supported and approaching it's latest release version (version 7.0). Drupal is used worldwide for personal and enterprise web sites (including that of the White House). Currently in beta, version 1.0 of Drupal Gardens will be released when Drupal 7 is ready (looking to be early in 2011). Unlike many of the other social networking options that are recent startups relying on income from investors and the social networking customers, Acquia is an established company with multiple revenue streams. Drupal Gardens, in many ways, offers the best of both worlds. As a solution based on open source code, the sky is the limit. New features are regularly being developed for Drupal and would have the potential for being incorporated. As a managed solution, most of the headaches of searching for and testing potential solutions is already done for you.

Because it is based on the as yet unreleased version of Drupal, Drupal Gardens currently only provides a blog, forums, news, photo galleries and mailing lists. The promise of Drupal Gardens is that virtually any other functionality you can think of is already available in Drupal 6. Once 7 is completed and modules are ported, this has the potential to stand head and shoulders above the competition. This is especially true for those who want to, and are willing to invest the time in, fully customizing and managing the site. The ability to do those two things are already fully realized in the beta version. It easily boasts the most robust layout and administrative controls of any solution I've seen. It would be impossible, in fact, to provide you all the details of the administrative functions available in the short format of these reviews. It should be noted that, while not required, it is certainly helpful to gain a very basic understanding of Drupal functionality and concepts in order to make full use of the features available at Drupal Gardens. If Drupal Gardens already has the features you need, this is a great option (consider it a rating of 4 stars!). If it doesn't, but you're not in a rush and willing to take a risk on how long it might be for things like subgroups to be implemented, now might be a great time to get started and learn the ins and outs before functionality is increased. No matter who you are, I would encourage you to keep an eye on this offering as I strongly suspect it will be getting a lot more attention in 2011.

Significant Feature Notes

Resources - Active community forums. Help documentation available while viewing site as Admin. Troubleshooter, knowledge base and help center available.

Pricing - Tiered. Free across all tiers until end of 2010. Free version is ad supported as well as page, page views and support ticket limited.

General Use - Very user friendly. Somewhat based on how the site is configured by the owner.

Admin - Easily manage content through a dashboard. Maintenance mode available. Manage fields (add, choose to display) for most content types. Create mailing lists. Customize Menus (admin and user!). Utilize taxonomy to tag/categorize content across the site. Highly refined user management including definition of unlimited roles and granular permissions associated with each. Turn modules on and off. Adjust all system messages. Enable and customize email notification for comments in desired modules. Configure the WYSIWYG editor, including what buttons/options are available to users. Custom error pages. Export and backup your site. Statistics, logs and error reporting.

Layout - Customize every page layout! Infuse your own CSS. Drag and Drop, block-style layout modification. Create new "views" that can then be added to blocks and displayed on pages. Use one of the polished DG themes or your own. Choose from 8 different general layout possibilities (2 and 3 column).

Forums - Add forums as well as "containers" (separators for forums). Quoting only through blockquote/italics. Needs some work on the layout/visuals. Possible if you know CSS.

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